Sec 498A of IPC has been one of the fiercely debated IPC sections, especially after the Supreme Court order last year where it laid down a list of guidelines to be followed by Police in these cases. Between 2007 & 2013, the number of cases registered under this section has consistently gone up while the conviction rate for cases under this section has come down. In fact, the conviction rate for cases under this category is less than half of the average conviction rate for all other IPC crimes. The conviction rate in this category is also one of the lowest.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that no arrests should be made automatically when a case under Section 498-A of the IPC is registered. The court ruled that the police should satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest and duly fill a checklist of parameters including the reasons for the arrest. This judgment invited extreme opinions from people from various quarters. This piece is an attempt to look at the number of cases registered under this section and the corresponding conviction rate.
What is Section 498A?
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code deals with domestic violence and cruelty towards women by the Husband or his family. It reads
Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.—For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—
(a) any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.
What happened to the cases between 2007 & 2013?
The National Crime Records Bureau releases All India Crime data every year. The report titled ‘Crime in India’ has detailed information on every type of crime registered. This report also has data on number of cases registered under the important IPC sections and their disposal by courts.
|Cases Filed under 498A and disposed of by Courts|
|Year||Total Cases pending trail up to that year||Convicted||Acquitted||Withdrawn||Total cases remaining at the end of year||Conviction Rate of Cases under 498A||Average Conviction Rate of all IPC crimes|
Between 2007 and 2013, the number of cases being filed under Sec 498A of IPC is on the rise and there is roughly a 10% rise in the number of pending cases each year. The number of cases pending trial was around 2.67 lakh at the beginning of 2007. This number increased to 4.66 lakh at the beginning of 2013, a rise of almost 75% in 7 years.
Convictions Vs Acquittals
While the number of convictions was more or less close to 7000 cases in each of these 7 years, the number of acquittals increased consistently. From 25791 acquittals in 2007, this number went up to 38165 in 2013. The number of cases withdrawn was more or less equal to the number of convictions in each of these 7 years. For every case that is resulting in conviction, 5 other cases are resulting in acquittal while one other case is being withdrawn. The net result is that only one out of every 6-7 cases is resulting in conviction.
Conviction Rate of crimes under Sec 498A Vs other IPC Crimes
While the number of cases is rising each year, it is surprising to note that the conviction rate is dropping. This could be because of false cases or the failure of the prosecution to prove that the accused were guilty of the offense. The conviction rate of cases under Sec 498A was 21% in 2007 and dropped to 16% in 2013 while the average conviction rate in other IPC crimes remained more or less at 40% each year. In other words, the conviction rate in cases under 498A is less than half of the average conviction rate for all other IPC crimes.
Rank of Conviction rate for 23 Categories under different sections of IPC
The NCRB categorizes crimes under IPC into 23 different categories. If one looks at the respective conviction rates of for these 23 different categories, cases registered under Sec 498A (Cruelty by Husband & Relatives) have one of the lowest conviction rates. In 3 out of the seven years, this category was at the bottom of conviction rates. In these seven years, the cases registered under Sec 498A were among the bottom three in terms of conviction rates. At the same time, this category is in the top seven when it comes to number of cases registered.
Nearly 20-25% of all women arrested were booked under Section 498A and this category has seen highest women arrests of all categories consistently from 2007. This category has the highest women to men ratio in terms of arrests in all the years. In the category of the women arrested above 45 years, the incidence of 498A cases is more.
|Year||Rank of Conviction Rate (Highest Conviction Rate Ranked 1)||Number of categories with lower conviction rate than 498A|
Are False Cases on the rise?
There is no conclusive evidence to prove that the false cases under this section are on the rise. But the lower conviction rate in this category is alarming and will need a deeper analysis to understand the underlying causes.
There is also no direct measure to count suicides if any because of these false cases. NCRB does not count suicides if any because of false cases as a separate category. These deaths are counted under family problem category. In 2013 for instance 21,096 men committed suicide because of family problems while 11,229 women committed suicide for the same reason. More than 2000 women also committed suicide because of dowry issues.